Thursday, November 06, 2008

Let Them Eat Cake

Lately, I've been in this baking/cooking mood. People who know me know this is crazy because I'm always complaining that I hate to cook. But, there are moments when I just get in a mood to cook, and I go at it like an ant on meatskin (I love that saying from my mom.)

At any rate, I've been on this whole foods kick. I don't want to use artificial ingredients. I think our American diet is killing us and making food conglomerates and doctors rich. I don't want to do that. I want to live a long time and be healthy and rich so that I can buy cute shoes. You can never have too many cute shoes.

Anywho, about two years ago I stumbled on this site that I have fallen in love with: 101 Cookbooks I LOVE this site. It features vegetarian fare, but the recipes combines such exotic ingredients that I feel like I am some world traveler, sampling exotice, world cuisine. The site owner, Heidi Swanson, is also a photographer, and her pictures are wonderful. Definitely check it out. I will say though that some of the recipes use ingredients that are either exotic and hard to get, or pricey. However, with all my cooking knowledge that I've recently amassed, I've learned that you can substitute a lot of that pricey stuff for things that you already have in your kitchen.

For instance, this week's feature recipe was Unfussy Apple Cake. That's the other thing I love about 101 Cookbooks--the absolutely cool titles of the recipes. Back to my point. Since we're smack dab in the middle of fall, and there are apples to abound, I decided to make this cake. I figure, if it's unfussy, that's right down my alley because who wants to spend 3 hours making a cake? Have you ever made one of those Martha Stewart/Bon Appetit/Hoity-Toity cakes? Waaay too much time in the kitchen. By the time I'm finished, I'm covered in flour and clarified butter, and I'm too tired to even enjoy the fruit of my efforts. But not so with this cake. It was so easy.

You can get the recipe here. Now in this recipe, Heidi mentions something about Saigon cinnamon. I assume that I could probably get this at an Asian food market, but the only problem is that our Asian food markets don'tave it. The area we live in is still pretty rural, and it's just not the epicenter of haute cuisine.

At any rate, she describes the Saigon cinnamon as tasting like a red hot. I thought since I didn't have the Saigon cinnamon, why not add a bit of spice of my own? So I did. I know what I'm about to say sounds gross, but it was really, really good. I added nutmeg, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon (regular), garam marsala, anise, and, hold on to your hats, a smidge of chili powder! Yes, chili powder! And you know what, that was a good cake! I topped it with a bit of her caramel sauce, and that cake was gone by morning. It was spicy without being overwhelming. I added walnuts, too (I have to have walnuts in almost every baked good. It's a requirement; like wearing a seatbelt.) Also, if you don't have buttermilk on hand, you can take a cup of milk and mix in about a tablespoon of white vinegar. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, and you have buttermilk. One last thing, Heidi used whole wheat pastry flour. I used freshly ground hard red wheat berries--it was really good. I don't know that this recipe would work with all purpose flour, though. You would probably have to adjust a thing or two. I think the whole wheat flour makes it a little heartier and holds the apples and buttermilk just a little better. But what do I know? I'm new at this :)

My family are my resident guinea pi--, er um, taste testers, and they all said they loved it. They weren't being nice, either. When they don't like something, believe me they let me know.

Well, I'm off to try baking some more things. I have a taste for orange-cardomom scones! Yum!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Is God In Control or Man?

For the past year, I have heard nothing but people in a panic and an uproar over
this election. I've heard lies, hyped up messages and everything else about
both candidates. I am a Christian and I am African American. I have been
bullied, sullied and whatever else into voting for either candidate. I've
been told I'm not a Christian if I vote for Obama. I've been told I'm not
black if I vote for McCain. I've never seen anything like it.

I have a question for those of us who call ourselves Christians: Is God in
control or is man? I've heard a lot about evil and how we can't let evil
win. God is ultimately over it all.He has already won. Yes, I know we are to
stand up for what's right, but where is our faith? If Obama wins, is God
still not God? If McCain wins, is God still not God? Is He in control, or is
man? Will God not take care of His children despite who our earthly
"kings/queens" are? Does anything happen that God doesn't know about? Can He
not protect His people? Did He promise us that everything was going to go
our way? Did He say that victory is His? Why are we who are the called of
His name in turmoil and panic? If McCain wins, does that mean evil will
cease? If Obama wins, does that mean evil will abound? These are HUMAN
BEINGS! They are fallible; God is not.

If America becomes a socialist country, does that mean Jesus is not Lord of
all? Does it mean He won't be able to feed or clothe you? Are His arms tied
and He won't rescue His people? Is He blind to not see what's going on in
our world?

Did He not warn us that there will be perilous times ahead? Persecution?
Death? Did we forget this message? Do we not realize that time is short? We
are fed a message about stopping abortion, but yet we have millions of
babies who go to bed hungry every night. We have single mothers who are
paying $250/wk for daycare. Nobody cares about the child who wasn't aborted,
but lives with a single mother in the ghetto. Nobody thinks about them.
Nobody cares about the thousands upon thousands of young black men who have
been killed. The ones who are imprisoned.The church is supposed to care for
widows an orphans, but is the church doing that? No. We have a million and
one seminars on Purpose Driven Living. Praise and Worship. Boundaries. But
are we the Church spreading the Gospel? Not really. People die and go to
hell because the Church is not proclaiming Jesus Christ is Lord. We're
protesting gay marriage, but yet we don't tell gay people that Jesus loves
them. That He died for them so that they don't have to succumb to sin that
is not in His will. Homosexuals need to know Jesus. Children born out of
wedlock need to know Jesus. Liberal Democrats need to know Jesus.
Conservative Republicans need to know Jesus.

I am so tired, people. I have been assaulted with panic, gloom and doom,
mainly from Christians. It is very sad to me that we in American believe
that we can continue on a course where we won't have to suffer. We think
we're entitled to live a life where things are handed to us on a platter. We
have it so easy here in this country. We have food in our bellies, money in
our pockets. Some of have more than one vehicle. No, you may not be a
millionaire, but the average person in the world lives on less than $1/day.
People are living in grass huts and eating mud cakes. I have three Bibles in
my home. There are people in countries that die for even saying that they're
a Christian.

We complain about having to pay more taxes. We complain about crime. We
complain, complain, complain. Jesus told us in this life we will have many
troubles, but take heart because He has overcome the world. He DID NOT
guarantee that our country would not fall away. It hurts me to see the
condition that our country is in. We're in a mess, but you know, I have to
say that if the Church did what it's supposed to do, maybe things would get
better. We think because we elect a man that God is going to reward us for
picking the "right" man, or judge us for picking the wrong one. What does
that have to do with HIS kingdom? His agenda? Who are we living for? The
American way of life or God's way of life?

I know that as an American, God has blessed me to live in a country where I
have a lot of freedom. Many people died so that I could enjoy that freedom.
As an African American, I think I understand that more than a lot of people.
I'm not saying that to be divisive, but it is true. My people weren't even
allowed to vote in this country until just a little over 40 years ago, so I
don't take that freedom lightly. I believe in our political process. I
believe that God ordained this country to be the super power that it is. I
believe He allowed me to be born here so that I could spread His word to
others that don't know Him. My hope is not the American way of life; my hope
is in Jesus Christ.

I am a sixth generation American--actually, some of my ancestors greeted the
Pilgrims. I am an American, but I am a resident alien here because my home
is Heaven. God is my King. He is the ultimate authority. It doesn't matter
who is in office, ultimately God is where the buck stops.

I refuse to succumb to the gloom and doom around me. God is in control. He
knows who's going to win the election. It doesn't change a thing. God is God
today. He will be God tomorrow. Nothing happens without Him allowing it. Put
your trust in Jesus. Not in America, not in the Constitution, not in a man
or woman. Jesus is the answer for the world.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Sweetest Thing

Lately, God and I have been sort of on the outs. I've been sorta not talking to Him. I know, silly. There are some things that He wants me to deal with that I don't feel like dealing with. Plus, I'm kinda sorta ticked that He hasn't been answering my prayers--at least not in the way that I think He should answer them.

I said in another blog that I went on a retreat of sorts with some ladies from an old study I used to attend. I seriously didn't want to go, but one of my friends kept asking me if I would go and I finally relented. I am so glad I did.

The first couple of nights, I did nothing--I didn't read my Bible, didn't pray, didn't talk to the Lord. On our first night there, one of the ladies told me they'd seen dolphins earlier that day. I felt a little twinge. I've never been one of those "dolphin" people, but I love to see dolphins in their natural habitat. I've never seen them up close, though. It's never been a thing that I've asked God for, but still it was an unspoken desire.

Sunday morning the Lord woke me up quite early and told me He and I needed to talk. I got up and walked to the beach. We had a long talk about some of the things that I know have been holding back our relationship. I felt something break in me, and I haven't felt God's presence like that before. It wasn't an overwhelming thing, it was just gentle and sweet. I walked along the beach and picked up a few more shells along the way. Afterwards, I found my way back to the gazebo and just sat to listen to the ocean. It's one of my favorite things to do. It just gives me such a peace to listen to the rushing waves and look at the ocean's vastness. It never ceases to fill me with wonder at God's creative genius.

Anyway, I sat there engrossed in my thoughts, and just feeling wrapped in God's love when something caught my eye. I looked up and there were dolphins! Three of them and they were maybe 50 feet from the shore! I've never seen them so close in all my life. I watched them as they swam away. Moments later, I saw three more and these were even closer. Again, I'm not one of those people that worships the creation, but that moment was just so awe inspiring and tender. It was just so beautiful to watch these creatures in their element. There were only three other people on the beach, and we all just stopped for that moment. It was like we all held our breath just watching this scene. It was, for lack of better words, just the coolest thing I've ever seen!

In that moment, I was so broken that God so gives us the desires of our heart. It was just such a sweet tender moment from my Father! To think that He loves me so much to answer a simple desire that I hadn't even expressed to Him! How much He loves me. It's like He stopped the universe just for me, for just a small moment in time. I could just hear Him saying, 'I have loved you with an everlasting love.' I don't think I can ever look at Him the same.


This weekend I had the opportunity to go on a retreat with some ladies from a Bible study that I used to attend. Some of the ladies used to attend my church and I hadn't seen them in awhile; others were people that I know that I haven't had a chance to connect with in a long time; and still others I had never met until that day.

It was so wonderful laughing and talking with friends old and new. I had such a great time connecting with everyone. On our last night together, a couple of us started feeling a little wistful. We'd shared a lot of laughter and tears over our few hours together, but we knew we'd have to get back to the real world soon.

As I sat there, I realized that whether or not I saw these ladies again in this life, I would see them in Heaven, and in Heaven we would have all eternity to fellowship. That gave me a peace and comforted me in a strange way. I grew up as a military brat, and even though I have always coped with people coming and going out of my life, it's always hard. I realize that I kind of keep people at a distance because I know sooner or later the relationship is going to change and one of us is going to move to another season in life. That always makes me just a little sad. But this weekend, I saw that in Heaven it's going to be so awesome to spend time with friends and family who have passed on. There is something so wonderful about fellowshiping with other believers. I think the best part is that we'll get to be together with Jesus.